Effective Co-Parenting: How I’m Making It Work During B-School

With my daughter, Nyah @ Venice Beach the day after I picked her up from her father in California — where she spent Winter Break as part of our custody agreement.

My ex-husband and I separated on November 1, 2013 — just hours before I was scheduled to board a flight to New York for a prospective student conference at a top MBA program.

Becoming a Single Mom
When I got back to Los Angeles, he moved out and I became a single mother overnight.

It felt like my world was falling apart. I had followed all the so-called rules and married the man I thought was my soul mate.

We were together two years before we got married, and I gave birth to Nyah two years after our wedding.

  • Graduate college: +++
  • Get married: +++
  • Have a baby: +++
  • Live happily ever after: TBD.

Going through a divorce while working full-time, studying for the GMAT and doing all the other work I took on during my pre-MBA journey was HARD. Like, insanely, unbelievably hard.

Think:
- school research
- pre-MBA programs like MLT and Forte MBA Launch
- networking with current students
- traveling for multiple school visits
- writing and re-writing essays
- managing letters of recommendation
- taking extra classes — I took Stats and Calc

At some point during this journey, I was inspired to launch a new venture and www.mbamama.com was born.

I’ve Seen Really Bad Co-Parenting
I witnessed my parents have a dysfunctional co-parenting relationship throughout my entire childhood. I remember a time when I was in the hospital with a wound that severed numerous tendons in my right elbow. I was about 11 years old. As I lay on a hospital gurney, the anesthetics took effect. I remember drifting in-and-out of consciousness while my parents stood on either side of me arguing about insurance, child support and accusations about how the accident happened on “parent X’s” watch.

This is why I am so determined to make co-parenting work for my children. Because, honestly, the kids are the only losers in these situations.

My Outlook on Co-Parenting
My ex-husband, Abraham, is a great father. For various reasons, we just weren’t great together. Ultimately, we fell out of love and made the decision that we would both be happier and healthier apart. Despite the dissolution of our marriage, we have two beautiful, talented, innocent children: Nyah and Shafiq, who bind us together for the rest of our lives.

With my son, Shafiq who currently lives in Uganda with Abraham’s parents. For now, I’m a long distance mama to Shafiq.

When I was still living in Los Angeles before business school, Abraham saw Nyah on weekends and was very involved in her life after we separated. After many conversations and negotiations, he agreed to let me move to Philadelphia with Nyah to pursue my MBA under the condition that he would get to spend Winter, Spring and Summer Breaks with Nyah in California. In the past 9 months, we’ve made bi-coastal co-parenting work despite a few bumps in the road.

As part of my mission to tell my story to the MBA Mama community, I wanted to share some best practices that have helped me become a more effective co-parent over the past year.

Center the children (not yourself, or your feelings)
This is easier said than done, but if you’re intentional about it, it becomes easier as time goes on. Emotional intelligence is essential to maintaining effective relationships — both personally and professionally. By putting your children first and making decisions based on what is in their best interest, you can save yourself a lot of time and multiple headaches.

Nyah makes it easy to focus on her!

PROTIP: If you find a discussion about weekend plans or your child’s pediatrician turn into an argument about that lie he or she told five years ago, abort the mission.

Personally, one method that helps me avoid centering my own feelings is to engage with my co-parent in writing rather than talking in-person, via telephone or videoconference. Written communication memorializes each person’s position on parenting issues that need to be vetted. This way, nothing turns into a “he said-she said” scenario. It is also very difficult to type with anger, or to have conversations escalate as quickly and passionately as they otherwise might.

Nevertheless, face-to-face interaction and telephone conversations are inevitable. So, I try to keep my conversations with my co-parent short, sweet and all about the kids. So far, so good.

Positive Vibes Only
I never ever badmouth Abraham or tell my children anything that could negatively influence their perception of their father. I’ve seen this happen. Not only does it breed resentment, but this can actually backfire on the parent who chooses to engage in this type of behavior.

Be Patient
When you end a relationship with someone, you typically can choose to maintain contact or cut ties. If you choose to cut ties, patience is not something you have to consider because you can just end it. However, with co-parenting, you are stuck with that person for the rest of your life. I honestly don’t even think you can cut ties with the other parent once the child turns 18. I envision me and my ex-husband continuing to co-parent during Nyah and Shafiq’s college years, during the early stages of their careers and being involved when they get married and have kids.

As a result, I practice patience and try to remember that we are in this for the long haul.

Final Thoughts
Being a parent is hard work. It is not all sunshine, giggles and rainbows. In the age of Facebook and Instagram filters where we only post the happy moments, I want to be open and honest about the fact that parenting and co-parenting can be messy.

Like most parents, Abraham and I want our children to be versatile, educated, well-adjusted, kind people. Sometimes, we disagree on the standards and methods by which we plan to instill the core values and lessons we want our children to learn. I am getting much better at picking my battles when I disagree with my co-parent. It has made the past year much easier and less stressful.

By using the tips I’ve outlined here, I hope other women who find themselves in co-parenting situations can find some inspiration in my story.